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Founded in 1585, the coastal city of João Pessoa is the capital of Paraíba. It lies
120 km north of Recife, 688 km south of Fortaleza, and 185 km south of Natal. While the
city center lacks flavor, Tambaú beach, seven km east, is a pleasant place to hang out
for a few days.
The city is named after João Pessoa, the governor of Paraíba who formed an alliance
with Getúlio Vargas to run for the presidency of Brazil in 1929. In response to advances
from other political parties attempting to gain his support, João Pessoa uttered a pithy
`nego'(I refuse), which is now given prominence in all Brazilian history books, and
is emblazoned in bold letters on the state flag of Paraíba.
João Pessoa’s aspirations to the vice presidency were short-lived: in July 1930 he was
assassinated by João Dantas, an event which sparked a revolutionary backlash that
eventually swept Getúlio Vargas to power (with considerable help from the military) in
The rodoviária is on the western edge of the city. The main hotel and shopping
district, known as Praça, is further east; and close by is Parque Solon de Lucena, a
large lake circled by trees, which locals simply call Lagoa. There are numerous bus stops
here which are convenient for local transport for example, to travel to the beach district
of Tambaú or further up the coast to Cabo Branco.
Tourist Offices PBTUR (226-7078), at Avenida Almirante Tamandaré 100, in Tambaú,
provides maps and leaflet. It’s inside the Centro Turístico, diagonally opposite Tropical
Hotel Tambaú. There are also tourist information stands at the rodoviária (which
only opens irregularly and at the airport.
Banco do Brasil is on Praça João Pessoaa couple of doors down from Hotel
Aurora. It’s open from 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. In Tambaú, the branch in the
Centro Turístico is open the same hours.
Post & Telephone
The main post office in the center of town is on Avenida Guedes Pereira. The main
office of TELPA, the state telephone company, is at Rua Visconde de Pelotas 259.
Dangers & Annoyances
João Pessoa has an odd variety of `noisemobiles,’ vehicles converted to carry as many
loudspeakers as possible. They cruise the streets deafening everyone with advertisements
for underwear at amazing prices or airing political grievances.
Igreja São Francisco
The principal tourist attraction is the Igreja São Francisco, considered to be one of
Brazil’s finest churches. Construction was interrupted by successive battles with the
Dutch and French, resulting in a beautiful but architecturally confused complex built over
three centuries. The façade, church towers and monastery (of Santo Antônio) display a
hotchpotch of styles. Portuguese tiled walls lead up to the church’s carved jacaranda wood
doors. The church is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 to 11 am and 2 to 5 pm and on Sunday
from 2 to 5 pm.
Museu Fotográfico Walfredo Rodrigues
The Walfredo Rodrigues Photography Museum in the old Casa da Pólvora (Powder House),
on Ladeira de São Francisco, has an interesting collection of pictures of the old city.
It’s open daily from 7 am to noon and 1 to 5.30 pm.
Aside from the rusty remains of battles against the French and Dutch, the beaches are
clean. Praia de Tambaú, seven km directly east of the center, is rather built up,
but nice. There are bars, restaurants, coconut palms and fig trees along Avenida João
Maurício (north) and Avenida Almirante Tamandaré (south).
South of Tambaú is Praia Cabo Branco. From here it’s a glorious 15-km walk
along Praia da Penhaa beautiful stretch of sand, surf, palm groves and
creeksto Ponta de Seixas, the easternmost tip of South America. Clear
water and coral make it a good spot for diving.
Immediately north of Tambaú, there are good urban beaches: Manaira, Praia do Bessa
I, Praia do Bessa II, Praia do Macaco (a surf beach) and Praia do Poço.
Twenty km north of Tambaú are the Forte Santa Catarina, Costinha and Camboinha
In the past, Costinha was a center for whale hunting, but this bloody practice should
have ceased by now.
Praia Cabedelo has a couple of pousadas, restaurants and bars.
Boats to Ilha de Areia Vermelha, an island of red sand, which emerges from
the Atlantic at low tide, also leave from here. In summer, dozens of boats park around the
island and the party lasts until the tide comes in.
Navegar Turismo (246-2191) operates excursions on a motor schooner to Areia Vermelha
and Praia de Santa Catarina, and various sunset-moonlight cruises. The trips last between
three and four hours.
Places to Staybottom end
João Pessoa’s main attraction is Tambaú beach, and that’s where many of the hotels
are, although there are modest hotels in the center as well. When inquiring about room
prices, it’s worth being persistent: some hotels will instantly claim that all the cheaper
rooms are occupied.
The Hotel Aurora (241-3238) at Praça João Pessoa 51, has adequate quartos at
$6.50/10 for singles/doubles. Avoid the rooms overlooking the streets, which can be noisy.
The Hotel Franklin (222-3001), at Rua Rodrigues de Aquino 293, is a basic,
family-run place with quartos at $6.50/11 for singles/doubles.
The Hotel Guarany (241-2308), at Rua Marechal Almeida Barreto 181, is clean, but
some rooms with fan have a gaping hole where the air-con has been removed, and a similar
void in the wall above the door. Apartamentos with fan start at around $14/21 for
The Hotel Kennedy (221-4924), at Rua Rodrigues de Aquino 17, has apartamentos
with air-con at $14/17.50 for singles/ doubles, with a sumptuous breakfast included; with
fan and no breakfast, the price drops to $6/9.
The friendly hostel Albergue da Juventude Tambaú ( 226-5460) is at Rua Bezerra
Reis 82. There’s another hostel just south of Tambaú, at Cabo Branco: Albergue da
Juventude Cabo Branco (226-3628), at Avenida Padre José Trigueiro 104.
The best deal in Tambaú is the Hotel Pousada Mar Azul (226-2660), at Avenida
João Maurício 315. Huge apartamentos with a kitchen and refrigerator cost $18,
single or double. Breakfast is not included.
The Hotel Gameleira (226-1576), at Avenida João Maurício 157, has quartos
(without fan) at $14.50/15.50 for singles/ doubles, and standard (with fan) apartamentos
at $15.50/20 for singles/doubles. If you want to upgrade, luxury rooms and suites are
Praia de Seixas
If you fancy camping at the easternmost tip of Brazil, there’s a campground, Camping-PB-01
run by Camping Clube do Brasil at Praia de Seixas, which is about 16 km from the
center of João Pessoa.
Places to Staymiddle
The Paraíba Palace Hotel (221-3107), at Praça Vidal de Negreiros, s/n (no
number), is quite an impressive colonial palace which includes a swimming pool and a
restaurant. Although it is certainly a top-end hotel, its prices are currently a bargain
in the middle range. The standard apartamentos start at $35/45 for singles/doubles,
and the luxury rooms cost $50/60.
The Hotel Lagoa Park (241-1414), next to the Lagoa, at Parque Solon de Lucena
19, is a modern hotel with well-appointed rooms at $32/42.50 for singles/doubles.
The Hotel dos Navegantes (226-4018) at Avenida Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes
602, has apartamentos at $40/44 for singles/doubles. It’s close to the beach and
has a swimming pool.
Places to Staytop end
The five-star Tropical Hotel Tambaú (226-3660), at Avenida Almirante Tamandaré
229, on Praia de Tambaú, is the city’s entry into the world of modern architecture. From
a distance this immense edifice (part of the Varig hotel group) bears a close resemblance
to a rocket launching pad. The hotel has standard singles/doubles for $97/112, and luxury
singles/doubles for $136/156.
Places to Eat
Cassino da Lagoa has an open patio and a fine position beside the Lagoa. Seafood
and chicken dishes are recommended. La Veritta, at Rua Desembargador Souto Maior
331, does good Italian food. Tempero da Mãe, at Rua Marechal Almeida Barreto 326,
is a good bet for tasty regional dishes. Sorveteria Tropical is close to Hotel
Guarany and serves ice cream in exotic flavors. Vegetarians can head for O Natural, at
Rua Rodrigues de Aquino 177, but it serves lunch only.
On the 3rd floor of the Paraíba Palace Hotel is an excellent restaurant with an
international menu. Prices here are high, but you can also simply order a beer with an
appetizer or snack and enjoy the view of the weird moat and city life from the terrace.
Rua Coração, a block back from the beachfront, near the Tropical Hotel Tambaú, is a
compact restaurant strip with a variety of styles. Adega do Alfredo, at Rua
Coração de Jesus 22, specializes in Portuguese dishes, but it’s a bit of a tourist trap.
Nova China, at Rua Coração de Jesus 100, is an inexpensive option for Chinese
food. For seafood, there’s Meio Ambiente, a cool bar and restaurant at Rua
Coração de Jesus 144, or Peixada do Duda, at Rua Coração de Jesus 147. The ensopado
de caranguejo (crab stew) here is superb.
Rosbife, opposite the Tropical Hotel Tambaú on the corner of Avenida Olinda, is
a good lunch spot with cold meats, salads and hot food priced by the kilo.
Nightlife in Tambaú centers around the beachfront along Rua João Maurício and
Avenida Olinda, which runs off the beachfront near the Hotel Tambaú.
Bahamas, on Rua João Maurício next to the pier, is a popular meeting place and has
live music on the weekend. For forró and lambada dancing in Tambaú,
there’s Opera Light, at Rua João Maurício 33, and Casa Blanca, at Praça Santo Antônio
22. Along Avenida Olinda, Colt, Estação and Forró Jazz are hip bars; there’s usually
some live music on weekends. On the corner of Avenida Almirante and Avenida Olinda,
there’s a small outdoor bar which caters for João Pessoa’s alternative crowdgrunge
types, surf rats, metal heads and punks all thrown together in the one place!
Things to Buy
Avenida Rui Carneiro, on Praia de Tambaú, has ceramic, wicker, straw and leather goods
for sale. On weekends, craft stalls set up in front of Tropical Hotel Tambaú. In the city
center, Casa do Artesão Paraibano, at Rua Maciel Pinheiro 670, also has craftwork for
Getting There & Away
Aeroporto Presidente Castro Pinto (229-3200) is 11 km from the city center. Flights
operate to Rio, São Paulo and the major cities of the Northeast and the North.
The rodoviária (221-9611) is on Avenida Francisco Londres. There are frequent
buses to Recife ($3, two hours), Natal ($4.50, 2 1/2 hours) and Fortaleza ($16, 10 hours).
There are five daily departures running direct to Souza ($12.50, seven hours).
Local buses can be boarded at the rodoviária; at the bus stop next to the main
post office; and at the bus stops next to the Lagoa. Bus No 510 runs frequently to Tambaú
($0.30, 25 minutes). Bus No 507 runs to Cabo Branco.
Taxistas on short hauls may try to charge tariff 2 (generally applicable at
nights and on Sunday) instead of tariff 1, which applies during the daytime. Take a
careful look at the price table, and work out your position on the map and point out
A taxi to the airport costs around $18 from the rodoviária to the center costs
around $2. To telephone a taxi call Teletaxi (221-3187).
SOUTH OF JOÀO PESSOA
Jacumã & Praia do Sol
Thirty-five km south of João Pessoa, Praia Jacumã is a long, thin strip of beach
featuring colored sand bars, natural pools, mineral water springs and barracas.
The town’s pousada, the Valhall, perched on a hill overlooking the ocean,
is run by a group of young Swedes led by Leif, who has traveled widely in Brazil.
Comfortable apartamentos cost $15/18, with a huge Swedish/Brazilian breakfast
included. In summer, there’s live music in the attached bar/restaurant.
Halfway between Jacumã and João Pessoa is Praia do Sol, which is similar to Jacumã
and an equally good place to relaxswaying in a hammock and sipping coconut milk in
The Buraquinho Forest Reserve, operated by IBAMA, is 10 km before João Pessoa on
Getting There & Away
There are direct buses to Jacumã from the rodoviária in João Pessoa.
Travelling north from Pernambuco state on BR-101, ask to be dropped off at the
Conde/Jacumã turn-off, and take a local bus from there to Jacumã.
About 10 km south of Jacumã is Praia de Tambaba, the only official nudist beach in the
Northeast. The beach, rated by Brazilians as among the top 10 in Brazil, is divided into
two parts: one section is reserved exclusively for nudists, and the other is open to
clothed bathers. To prevent problems, the nude section has public relations officers who
explain the rules to bathers. There are two barracas along the beach. When the
beach is crowded, men are not allowed in the nude section unless accompanied by a woman.
The Associação dos Amigos da Praia de Tambaba (Association of Friends of Tambaba)
(290-1037, evenings only) can provide more information.
To Tambaba, Pousada Valhall may be able to arrange transport; otherwise it’s a 1 ½
hour walk along the beach from Jacumã.
Praia Pitimbu, 75 km south of João Pessoa, has a long, broad beach, a coconut grove,
some thatched-roof houses, and a couple of bars frequented by sugar-cane farmers,
fisherfolk and jangada sailmakers. There are no hotels, but if you look friendly
and bring a hammock, someone will put you up for a nominal fee.
Travelling north on BR-101 from Pernambuco state into Paraíba state, there’s a
turn-off just after the border, which leads 35 km down a rough road to Praia Pitimbu.
BAÍA DA TRAIÇÀO
Despite its peaceful, reef-sheltered waters, Coconut palms and gentle breezes, Baía da
Traição has a bloody past. Here in 1501, the first Portuguese exploratory expedition was
slaughtered by the Tabajara Indians. In 1625 the Portuguese had it out with the Dutch,
claimed victory and left some rusty cannons and the ruins of a fortress in their wake.
This fishing village, 85 km north of João Pessoa, has no regular lodging, but the
beach is better than the one at Barra do Cunhaú, which is further north along the coast,
in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.
Getting There & Away
There’s a partially paved turn-off to the beach on BR-101 at Mamanguape. The Rio Tinto
bus company operates buses twice daily, at 5.30 am and 3 pm, from João Pessoa’s rodoviária
($2.50, two hours).
Sousa, 420 km west of João Pessoa, is known for an offbeat tourist attraction:
dinosaur tracks. The tracks were discovered in 1920 by a geologist who was researching
droughta major preoccupation in the sertão. Later discoveries of tracks at
over 13 different sites along the Rio do Peixe showed that the whole region had once been
a Vale dos Dinossauros (Valley of Dinosaurs). There are at least three sites in the
proximity of Sousa. The best is four km from town, at Passagem das Pedras da Fazenda Ilha,
on the banks of the Rio do Peixe, where at least 50 prints have been left by dinosaurs
which, judging by the depth and size of the imprints, weighed between three and four tons.
This site is subject to flooding during the rainy season and is best visited with a
guide. Transport options are limited to either hiring a taxi at the rodoviária or
asking the staff at the Hotel Gadelha Palace to arrange transport and a guide.
Travelers interested in handicrafts should make a side trip to the town of Aparecida,
14 km east of Sousa, which is famed as a center for the production of superb hammocks,
textiles, and goods made from leather and straw.
Places to Stay & Eat
The Hotel Gadelha Palace (521-1416), at Rua Presidente João Pessoa 2, has apartamentos
for around $18/22 for singles/doubles. There’s a restaurant in the hotel, or if you hanker
for pizza, try Diagonal, at Rua Getúlio Vargas 2.
Getting There & Away
There are six bus departures daily which run via Patos and Campina Grande to João
Pessoa ($12.50, seven hours). Buses also depart four times daily to Juazeiro do Norte.
Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro, and Robyn Jones. For more
information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
Used by permission.
Buy it at
Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit
by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,